Getting an expert witness in a truck accident case can help prove negligence and establish fault. You see, cases like this do not merely involve two parties. In car collisions, only the drivers usually share the blame. Truck accidents, however, are often the result of mismanagement and poor decisions. With vehicles twice or thrice the size of a standard automobile, two or more people oversee truck operations before it even hits the road.
This is where it all becomes complicated. When the truck ends up in a collision, there may be one or more underlying reasons. If you were the victim, who would you blame? The truck driver is an obvious answer. But what if the company mechanic failed to inspect the truck before it was dispatched? Or, what if there was a defective part installed by the vehicle manufacturer? On the other hand, how about if the truck passed a dangerous curve with inadequate lighting? Such complexities need the assistance of an expert witness in a truck accident case.
Lay Witness Vs. Expert Witness in a Truck Accident Case
If a witness is not testifying as an expert, testimony in the form of an opinion is limited to one that is:
(a) rationally based on the witness’s perception;
(b) helpful to clearly understanding the witness’s testimony or to determining a fact in issue; and
(c) not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge within the scope of Rule 702.
Therefore, a lay witness can only testify according to what he/she has seen or heard during the time of the accident. He/she may also give a reasonable opinion, such as a belief that one of the vehicles was speeding before the collision. However, the law does not permit a lay witness to say anything else that is not related to his/her recollection of the accident.
Meanwhile, an expert witness in a truck accident case may examine the pieces of evidence. He/she can provide more information based on personal experience. Based on the Federal Rules of Evidence:
A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise if:
(a) the expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
(b) the testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
(c) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
(d) the expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Hence, the testimony of an expert witness in a truck accident case is as valuable as that of a lay witness.
Types of Expert Witnesses
Accident reconstruction specialist – This type of expert tries to find out how the accident unfolded by interpreting the clues left at the accident scene. By studying the factors in reverse, an accident reconstruction specialist will be able to tell the following:
- condition of the road, vehicle, and traffic prior to the incident
- errors that occurred which contributed to the accident
- what happened right after the incident
Automotive repair expert – A mechanic expert witness in a truck accident case specializes in truck maintenance and repairs. He can analyze whether the truck had a mechanical failure or a defective part prior to the crash.
Transportation and safety consultant – Someone who can check if the trucking company violated safety regulations. A transportation and safety consultant can provide opinion on the following:
- driving errors
- hours of service violations
- driver knowledge and skills
- motor carrier standards of care
Road design expert – A professional who gives analysis on the engineering, safety, and maintenance of roads, highways, streets, and pavements. A road design expert witness in a truck accident case will check if one of these caused the crash:
- curve speed
- sight distance
- highway geometry
- field measurements
- surface conditions
- maintenance and operations
- traffic signals and devices
Medical expert – A licensed practitioner in a particular medical field. He/she is either a physician, nurse, surgeon, or specialist who can extensively describe the range of your injuries. You need a medical expert to prove the losses you incurred for treatment and rehabilitation.
Forensic and investigative accountant – You need someone who will factor in all the expenses which resulted from the accident. A forensic accountant may also provide:
- damage evaluations
- calculation of loss of past and future earnings
- determination of fair or reasonable compensation
The Importance of Getting an Expert Witness in a Truck Accident Claim
The opinion of an expert witness in a truck accident case will reinforce the arguments presented in a claim. That expert testimony is not just a piece of supplemental information, but a strong foundation that will prove fault.
Due to the unique circumstances of each case, you may or may not need all experts mentioned above. If ever, your accident lawyer may seek other types of expert witnesses. For instance, the truck driver appeared to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the accident. Hence, your lawyer will consult a forensic toxicologist for that matter. On the other hand, if you were experiencing mental and emotional trauma after the accident, a psychologist can help establish the extent of your damages.
Bringing a credible expert witness in a truck accident claim gives your case leverage. By consulting with specialists, your lawyer can identify the strengths and weaknesses of your evidence. This saves time and litigation costs, as your legal team can focus on the factors that can establish negligence.
It is just as important to note, however, that hiring an expert witness can also be expensive. This is why your accident lawyer will incorporate an expert witness as a part of his/her strategy. You need an experienced lawyer who can already foresee the merits of your case.
Thus, you will only need expert witnesses for the most crucial elements of your claim. A reliable lawyer will ensure that their testimonies will provide undeniable value and substance. Thus, it will be difficult for the liable party’s insurance company to dispute your claim.